and Curiouser All the Time
by Michael Shannon
It is not necessarily in the best interest of a person who
is presumptive enough to publicly comment of the goings on
of the world to admit that they do not have the slightest
idea what is going on. Such an admission can be greatly damaging
to whatever credibility and legitimacy said author may have
-- or wished they had -- built up among their readership.
Still, there are times when the course of events are so befuddling
and so incongruous that there is little choice but to admit
With that in mind, I will take the highroad escape route
and resort to the Socratic method as a means of deflecting
my ignorance and pose the following questions.
How is it that the collective wisdom continually seeks to
reassure us that in this most trying hour there is comfort
to be gained by noting that President Bush has surrounded
himself with the best and the brightest of the foreign policy
/ defense community when it is the very members of this team
who played so predominate a role in what is widely considered
to be the two worst defense / foreign policy decisions of
the previous Bush administration? Decisions that have direct
ramifications to the mess we currently find ourselves in.
The decisions in question are two fold. First; the abandonment
of Afghanistan upon the withdrawal of the Soviets in the late
80's -- a move which left such a vacuum of stability and order
in that God forsaken land that it was almost inevitable that
it would become a perfect staging ground and hideout for international
thieves and murderers.
The second being the failure to remove Saddam Hussein from
power when we had the opportunity and the means to accomplish
it. A failure which has caused us to station tens of thousands
of troops in and around the Arabian peninsula to insure that
he doesn't act up again.
As for the prosecution of the current war there are a couple
points that also don't add up. Yes, we have been remarkably
successful in bringing enormous firepower to bear on those
we believe had a hand in the murder of our brothers and sisters.
But with any degree of detached objectivity this doesn't come
as any surprise. A military engagement pitting the forces
of the Taliban and Al Quaida against the armed forces of the
United States is the equivalent of Jean Luc Picard taking
on Barney Rubble. The technological wizardry, the world class
training -- coupled with the burning desire in the men and
women who bring it to life to avenge their dead -- and the
near boundless financial resources that support it all made
the triumph of our side predestined. Yet, this victory will
remain hollow indeed until we get the focus of all this effort
to come to the surface.
Before the fires of September 11th had been quelled the people
of the United States -- from the President to the cop on the
street -- had made Usama bin Laden Public Enemy Number One.
And according to what the world has heard from his own mouth
it is an enmity that is well placed. So if it is he who was
the guiding force behind this worst assault on the lives and
property of America in memory why have we put so few of our
own troops on the ground to root this soulless bastard out?
Why are we placing so much faith in warlords with whom we
have little, if any, ties with prior to the eleventh of September.
How do we know that one of these guys is not going to take
a few million bucks in gold or raw morphine to look the other
way while UBL goes over the hill?
We keep hearing that we are tightening the noose around this
guy but according to all public announcements coming out of
Washington and the Pentagon the United States has less than
2,500 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. In a country
roughly the size of Texas that means we have one American
soldier for every 258 square kilometers. If -- God forbid
-- this rat does escape aren't the powers that be leaving
themselves dangerously exposed to second guessing and finger
Returning to the subject of Iraq; here is a real head scratcher.
How is it that a nation that we have technically been at war
with now for over ten years, a nation whose ruler has long
been reviled as a modern day Hitler remains one of our biggest
suppliers of crude oil? That's right, of the two dozen some
countries that the United States purchases oil from -- right
behind our neighbors and friends, Canada and Mexico -- Iraq
currently ranks fourth on the list. Now according to the UN
sanctioned embargo of Iraq this is a perfectly legal sale.
However, is there a person alive who believes that all of
the billions of dollars sent to Iraq in exchange for this
oil is spent on the food and medicine as it's supposed to
On the contrary, the United States government itself is one
of the strongest proponents of the belief that some of these
funds are being diverted to the development of weapons of
mass destruction. Which judging this man by his historical
track record may very well be the case. The result of course
is that the need to neutralize these weapons has now become
the basis of the call to finish what we started ten years
ago that so many are now advocating.
If providing our enemy with the means to arm themselves before
we decide to go into battle against them makes any sense to
you please explain it to me.
On the flip side we have the Russians. A nation which, while
once our sworn enemy, is now making every effort to be a constructive
and positive member of the international community. But in
spite of their efforts there is a tremendous residue of inefficiency
and decay as a result of seventy five years of communistic
idiocy. It has been apparent from the onset of the collapse
of the USSR that Russia would need all the economic help it
can get. Not that they are without something to offer in exchange.
As a matter of fact they just so happen to have the second
largest -- and the potential to discover much more than that
-- known oil reserves in the world. It only makes sense that
this is a perfect opportunity to support their emerging market
economy while at the same time purchasing a commodity that
we have to buy anyway. So how much of Russian crude is the
US currently importing? If you guessed zero you'd be right.
As for the country who reigns at the top of the list of nations
exporting oil to the US, Saudi Arabia, there is no end to
the questions one can raise about their methods and motivations.
There is one that is particularly galling; how is it that
the nation whose very existence depends on the financial and
military might of the United States -- and a nation who is
the birth place of 15 of the 19 men who murdered our countrymen
and women -- has yet to make one single arrest of any possible
accomplices to the most deadly assault in our history?
And how about this one. How is it that the very same group
of medieval minded, petty tyrants who sent representatives
to Houston back in 1997 to meet with the big shots of the
American oil-natural gas-pipeline company Unocal to discuss
a trans Afghanistan pipeline suddenly became personas non
I suppose all of this is somewhat to be expected. And by
that I don't mean the duplicity of our financial dealings,
the ability of our national leadership to hide the sins of
the past behind a waving flag or even the cowardice of our
alleged friends; after all nobody ever said geopolitics and
macroeconomics were clean and easy. And besides the Mideast
has long been looked upon by us westerners as a land of intrigue
and mystique. Perhaps all this mystery is just its way of
living up to its well earned reputation.